Dumbing down the debate

DUMBING DOWN THE DEBATE…. The House GOP leadership is obviously excited about this “Keep Terrorists Out of America Act” nonsense, but the harder they push, the more it seems obvious John Boehner and other leaders think Americans are idiots.

House Republicans released a new video today showing footage of the 9/11 attacks and attacking President Obama’s decision to close Guantanamo Bay.

The video is part of a Republican offensive against the prospect of transferring or releasing Guantanamo detainees into the United States.

Last week, House Republicans launched an “ad” intended to scare Americans, showing the president shaking hands with Hugo Chavez. This week, it’s a new “ad,” showing terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay who may be “coming soon to a neighborhood near you.”

It’s obviously shameless demagoguery, but what Boehner & Co. continue to fail to grasp is that tactics like these make them look desperate. The ridiculous attacks say more about them than Obama.

There are, to be sure, legitimate questions about the administration’s policies. Will the remaining Gitmo detainees face charges? If they’re put on trial, which system will the administration use? What about evidence against terrorist suspects that was obtained via torture? Republicans aren’t asking any of these questions, probably because they don’t care. The point here is to make American families think the president is going to let Khalid Sheikh Mohammed walk around your neighborhood.

John Cole asks, “Has anyone told these guys that we intend to put them in prisons, and not just release them in the wild?” Probably, yes. In fact, I suspect Boehner and his cohorts realize that these attacks are moronic. But they’re tried everything else from their bag of tricks, and partisan panic leads weak people to take desperate measures.

The question I’d really like to see Boehner answer, however, is simple: what about all the terrorists we’re already holding on U.S. soil?

Maybe I’m missing something, but I’m not sure just what these ads are saying we have to fret about. A prison break? Though there are some prisoners at Gitmo who deserve to be let go — something even the Bush administration admitted — Obama isn’t going to release the worst-of-the-worst detainees the ad features onto American streets. Indeed, the GOP’s video even shows the heavy gates and high-security features of the facilities in which these prisoners would likely reside. Recently admitted al Qaeda agent Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri lived in a naval brig in South Carolina for nearly six years, and nearby Charleston is still intact. Colorado’s federal Supermax prison already holds Ramzi Yousef, the World Trade Center bomber, Zacarias Moussaoui, the 20th 9/11 hijacker, and Richard Reed, the guy who tried to blow up a plane with a shoe bomb. The state’s no less safe for it. There’s a reason they call it Supermax.

If Boehner were consistent — stop laughing, it could happen — he would have made an effort years ago to remove terrorists from U.S. prisons. Instead, he’s never said a word, probably because he knows these madmen are safely locked up in maximum-security facilities.

It’s not about policy or security; it’s about politicizing fear, and doing it in a ham-fisted way.

As Richard Clarke said today,

“This video and the recent Republican attacks on Guantanamo are more desperate attempts from a demoralized party to politicize national security and the safety of the American people. But what is more disturbing is their brazen use of imagery and the memory of 9/11 to score political points. Thousands of Americans tragically died that day, and for the GOP to think it can win elections by denigrating their memory is disgraceful.

“The difference between these Republican videos and the very terrorist propaganda that seeks to damage our society is negligible. Each attempt to stoke the embers of fear in order to disrupt American life. Just as al Qaeda videos should be viewed as misguided rants from a small group of marginalized radicals, so too should these Republican videos be equally dismissed. As opposed to what the GOP thinks, the American people are not that naive.”